Eviction for Gaza uni camps, keffiyeh ban at parliament

By Holly Hales, Callum Godde, Dominic Giannini and Melissa Meehan
Updated May 15 2024 - 9:05pm, first published 9:00pm
Pro-Palestine students at universities across Australia have created more than a dozen encampments. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)
Pro-Palestine students at universities across Australia have created more than a dozen encampments. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

A second major university has moved to shut down a pro-Palestine encampment as another threatens police action against protesters staging a sit-in on campus.

Australian National University in Canberra told students to prepare to vacate the camp after it met organisers on Wednesday.

"The university has communicated its expectations ... ANU expects participants to follow these reasonable directions," a spokeswoman said.

ACT's National Tertiary Education Union said students had been directed to collect belongings and vacate the encampment on Friday.

Deakin University in Melbourne ordered the immediate dismantling and removal of a similar encampment at its Burwood campus on Monday.

Students have resisted and were planning to rally on Wednesday evening.

Pro-Palestine students at universities across Australia have created more than a dozen encampments in total and say they have no plans to move.

Deakin's deputy vice-chancellor Kerrie Parker ordered the dismantling of its encampment.

She said the students had previously agreed to run the set-up until May 10 and their protest was disrupting the function of the campus.

Classes were also cancelled at the Arts West building at the University of Melbourne's Parkville campus, where protesters staged a sit-in.

The activity was determined to have breached university policy and those in attendance were asked to vacate the area by 2.30pm on Wednesday.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Pip Nicholson spoke to the protesters at 1.30pm and gave them an hour to leave.

At 4.30pm, they barricaded themselves in and by 7.30pm as many as 80 were still inside and dozens were outside chanting.

The university later said it was concerned by the escalation and working closely with authorities to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

The tertiary sector's peak body head said universities had a legal obligation to uphold free speech.

"But it is appropriate that university vice-chancellors and management take action when freedom of speech turns into hate speech," Universities Australia chief executive Luke Sheehy told AAP.

"I've been working with our vice-chancellors closely and they're taking appropriate action."

The move comes as keffiyehs are banned from Victoria's parliamentary chamber.

Speaker Maree Edwards on Wednesday deemed the scarves, a long-time symbol of Palestinian nationalism, a political item of clothing.

Ms Edwards told Victorian Greens MP Gabrielle de Vietri to remove her keffiyeh in parliament on May 7 after Liberal MP David Southwick said he found it offensive.

Mr Southwick made the request after the chamber was interrupted by pro-Palestine protesters during a state budget sitting.

State Greens leader Ellen Sandell on Wednesday sought to clarify whether the keffiyeh was permanently banned.

"Political paraphernalia and badges are not allowed in the house," Ms Edwards said.

Ms Sandell argued MPs had been allowed to show support for various causes and wear cultural or religious items such as jewellery in parliament.

"An MP today is wearing a yellow pin, which could be perceived by some as support for the Israeli military," she said.

"Others are wearing rainbow badges."

Ms Sandell said the decision made the Victorian parliament one of the only chambers in the world to ban the traditional item.

Mr Southwick, who represents the electorate of Caulfield which has a large Jewish community, said his yellow pin was worn in support of Israeli hostages still in Gaza.

"It's not even a comparison," he told AAP.

Deputy Premier Ben Carroll's office in Melbourne's northwest was also vandalised on Wednesday morning.

"I urge everyone to please be civil, and to remember what makes Victoria such a strong state is our diversity, our harmony," he said.

Australian Associated Press